Approach Mode

Fortunately, approach modes that include attempts to understand and appreciate are almost as contagious to our partners as avoid and attack modes. In other words, if you are interested in your partner, he or she is likely to become interested in you. But if you dismiss, avoid, or devalue, what do you think will be the likely response?

— Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 173

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, October 2000

Appreciation and Value

Appreciate means to value your partner. Appreciation, in turn, makes you feel more alert and alive; you increase the value of your own life when you appreciate your partner in any way. When your partner feels your appreciation, you don’t have to worry about whether you compliment or praise him or her enough. And if you felt your partner’s appreciation, you wouldn’t feel so bad that he or she doesn’t think to compliment you. As a matter of fact, compliments seem empty if they do not convey in some sense that your life is better at this moment because of the person you appreciate.

Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 101-102

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 24, 2017


When you inspire yourself to improve, you try to make things just a little better — 1 percent will do to start. Thanks to the powerful human inspiration to improve, you don’t necessarily have to “fix” the problem to feel better. You just have to make it a little better. If you’re feeling bad and you think about what you can do to make it a little better — you don’t even have to do it, just think of it — you’ll start feeling better. If you’re upset at your partner, and you think of how you can make yourself feel a little better — shower, take a walk, smell a flower, call a friend, watch a game, chop some firewood, read a book — you’ll start to feel better. Making things a little better frees more mental resources in the neocortex, the problem-solving part of the brain. These added mental resources allow you to make things even better, freeing up more mental resources that enable you to improve yet a little more, and so on. Even if the improvement is only in your head, it will change your emotional demeanor and that will make negotiations with your partner go much better.

— Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 101

Photo: Wildeshausen, Germany, May 16, 2004

It’s All About Connection.

We communicate well with our intimate partners when we feel connected and poorly when we don’t. When you feel connected again, your desire to explore feelings with your partner will practically vanish. It’s a great combination: He’ll be able to do more of it, you’ll want less of it, and you’ll meet in the middle.

The bottom line is, think connection, not communication. Then you won’t shame him and he won’t make you afraid. Nor will he drive you away. Instead, he’ll fall back in love with you long before you walk out the door.

— Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, p. 64

[Photo: Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, March 17, 2012]

Habits of Connection

Build habits of connection. Intimate connection is largely a matter of attitude and habit. We choose to regard ourselves as connected and we choose to feel disconnected. In general, you’ll like yourself more when you choose connection and less when you choose disconnection. To love like empowered adults, build habits of brief moments of connection and structure them into your daily routine.

— Steven Stosny, Empowered Love, p. 212

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 12, 2018

Paul and Marriage

Paul did make a huge change in the status of women and in marriage, but not the one we ascribe to him. By bringing the question of happiness into it, he let loose not only that hope and possibility, but with it all of the complexity that ancient customs had tamped down. People now had to figure out relationships between the sexes: whether to have relationships at all, whether they bring too much pain and trouble, whether something else would be more fulfilling, how to balance relationships with the spiritual life, and how to love each other selflessly rather than take each other for granted as providers and breeders. It’s lucky that Christians counted on divine help, because they were going to need it.

— Sarah Ruden, Paul Among the People, by Sarah Ruden

Not Your Responsibility

Your partner is responsible for his own well-being. Deeply loving women struggle with caring profoundly for partners who are not good for them. They care for them with a love and a sensitivity to their spirits that their partners are not giving themselves — and certainly are not offering in return. It is a challenge to find a way to fully honor a partner who is embroiled in addiction, or who is suffering emotionally in other ways, but who periodically is cruel to you. And it can be unimaginably painful to leave a partner you love who is self-destructing.

Your partner’s relationships with others, his spiritual path, and his inner life are his own. If he grows and changes, it will not be because you repaired his relationships, found a spiritual path for him, or learned the inner workings of his psyche. When — if — he changes, it will be because he did these things himself. You can lay out your requirements or even outline resources for him, but then you must step away.

— Lundy Bancroft, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Popeye Defense

What’s fascinating about the Popeye defense [“I yam what I yam.”] is that when it’s used, it comes across as some healthy self-acceptance that everyone needs to adopt. “I can accept me for me — why can’t she?” On the surface, in our pop-psychology-riddled society, this may have the appearance of wisdom. But dig deeper, and this attitude is not only unwise, it’s actually harmful to both you and your marriage. And it certainly cannot stand up to our understanding of “I love you” and “I do.”

Just think about it for a moment. You want your spouse to accept you for who you are? Really? Even if you’re lazy? Even if you totally let your body go and become weak, fat, and unhealthy? Even if you drink too much or watch too much TV or read too many romance novels? Even if you neglect your kids, spend without discretion, complain about your spouse to your friends instead of addressing the issue directly? Your spouse is just supposed to sit back and accept all these behaviors as the honest, unchanging you he/she is stuck with forever?…

Now, if your answer is yes, that you believe your spouse should just accept you fully, warts and all, then I want you to listen carefully. Your problem is not your spouse’s efforts to change you. Your problem is that you don’t respect yourself — at all. You don’t even like yourself. Anyone who respects herself is going to actively work to improve herself, rarely sitting back and remaining satisfied. Anyone who even likes himself is going to nurture his God-given desire to grow in wisdom, and build on his skills and abilities. Instead, you’re wallowing in atrophy, using your emotional muscles only to defend yourself against your spouse’s efforts to change you. And you’re wondering why even the good things in life just don’t seem to be as pleasurable as they once were. That’s because you’ve “accepted” yourself and demanded that your spouse do the same.

— Hal Edward Runkel, ScreamFree Marriage, p. 229-230

Showing Yourself

This self-representation is the answer to every problem in marriage. It stops needless finger pointing arguments because you’re first pointing fingers at yourself. It starts great discussions because great discussions are only possible when each side is being truthful — and encouraging the other to do the same. Self-representation makes for remarkable connection because it ensures that the two trying to connect are at least trying to be authentic and truthful. Finally, self-representation eradicates the villain of marital boredom, because the risk-filled journey of showing your cards never ends. As you continue to age and grow and change, so will your desires, your preferences, and your dreams. And no matter how long you live with one person, you can never fully eliminate the risk of having no guarantee how your spouse will respond when you take an I-step. Never. That’s awfully good news for those of us wanting to retain the mystery, the excitement, and yes, the intimacy of a deeper, lifelong, connection.

— Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT, ScreamFree Marriage, p. 220


If you get out of someone’s way, they will fight and they will kick, but eventually, there’s nothing they can do but look at themselves and get real. Very, very real. Or totally self-combust in a life of lies. Or that dear opiate, denial….

All abuse is just bait. To get you to be the one who freaks out. So the other person doesn’t have to deal. Doesn’t have to take responsibility. Oh look — she’s the one with the black eye. She’s the one crying in the corner. She’s the one leaving. What a bitch.

But I stay silent and practice not taking the bait — not being resentful. Letting it wash over me. Because when I stay here, I am powerful. Very, very powerful. Take note of this. Let him have the middle-aged tantrum. Just be sure to duck!

— Laura Munson, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is. . . : A Season of Unlikely Happiness, p. 233-235